“Germany and Israel can look today at a trusting partnership,” Köhler said. “In light of the unprecedented crime of the Holocaust – the millionfold murder that the Germans perpetrated on the Jews – that is anything but a matter of course.”
The continued existence of the state of Israel and an end to violence in the Middle East are central in German policy, Köhler said.
“The path to peace is through a two-state solution with an Israel whose safety and continued existence are guaranteed and with a viable Palestinian state with recognized borders and good neighborly relations with Israel,” he said.
Köhler said he was pleased at the rebirth of Germany’s Jewish community, which he said has been an important part of the country’s culture for a millennium. He called for youth exchange programs to increase partnership between the two countries, saying work to prevent the history of the Holocaust from repeating itself should unite Jews and Germans.
Köhler’s comments came as an opinion poll released over the weekend showed that the majority of Germans no longer felt a special responsibility towards Israel more than 60 years after the Holocaust.
According to the survey by German public broadcaster ZDF, 53 percent of those asked didn’t feel any extra obligation to Israel and 40 percent did.
The older people were, the more likely they were to believe Germany had such a responsibility to Israel.
Of those more than 60 years old, 48 percent thought Germany does have a special responsibility to Israel, and 45 percent did not. Opinion was reversed among 30- to 39-year-old Germans – 65 percent of survey respondents in that age group answered no, and only 29 percent said yes.
Earlier on Thursday a high-ranking Israeli diplomat called on Germans to have more understanding for the Jewish state 60 years after its founding.
Speaking to the German news agency DPA, Ilan Mor, who is the charge d’affairs at the Israeli embassy in Berlin, said he wished Germans held a higher opinion of his country and its policies.
“One can criticize Israel too; Israel isn’t perfect. But the criticism should be balanced,” Mor said.
He said there needed to be more efforts to cultivate the friendship between Germans and Israelis on a personal level.
“If many Germans would visit Israel that would be a signal to us that we are not alone,” he said, adding that the partnership between the two countries should not be taken for granted. “We have to work at it.”